Fred North and his wife Lily are flanked on the left by Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers and on the right by Joel McCaw, board chair of Border City Connects (formerly Lloydminster Handivan Society) who officiated the donation of this cheque by the Fred North Charitable Foundation for the purchase of a new handivan, rolled out at Polar Bear Splash fundraiser held downtown on Dec. 2. The van service has been renamed Border City Express with a new logo, developed for the rebranding of all entities under the Border City Connects umbrella. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO
Wet and chilly Polar Bear Splash participants were short on words, but big on deeds and enthusiasm.
A half dozen brave souls jumped into a tank of cold water near the downtown Synergy Credit Union during the Here Comes Santa Claus celebration on Dec. 2.
The wild and crazy event raised between $13,000-14,000 for operational costs of the former Lloydminster Handivan Society, recently rebranded as Border City Connects.
Post splash fundraising sound bites from jumpers ranged from, “It was cold, really, really cold,” from Jennifer Keach, and “Cold, very cold,” by Ryan Topley to, “That was really refreshing,” from Gord Thiel.
The fun stuff was sandwiched in between the official rollout of a new 14-seat van purchased for Border City Connects for about $88,000 by the Fred North Charitable Foundation.
The unit is decked out as a Border City Express vehicle, which provides transportation services to residents with special needs and mobility challenges.
A new logo depicts the two border provinces with a highway arching across it.
Joel McCaw, the board chair of Border City Connects, told the audience on hand that as an independent non profit society, they receive very little government funding depending on ridership revenue, which does not cover their expenses.
“It is only because of the generosity of the community that we can provide this most-important service,” he said before a festive crowd.
“Today, I would like to recognize one of those community champions—we are elated to be the recipients of the generosity of the Fred North Foundation and the founders that are with us today, Fred and Lily North.”
Fred is the owner of TNT Tank and Trailer who set up the charitable foundation in 2007, funded annually with a share of company profits, to assist other registered charities in the community.
The bus decals include the Fred North Foundation name that got a nod from Fred, who gushed about the impact of having seats that can be reconfigured to accept up to four wheelchairs.
“They will get a lot of shut-ins out that don’t normally get out to do things—it’s universal with the seats and wheelchair capacity,” said Fred.
“I understand folks who have used it already are pretty impressed with it— it’s very functional.”
Fred said donating the vehicle was a no-brainer given the strong need for it by Border City Connects.
“They’ve been a great organization; they’ve been around Lloyd a long time and they’ve always done a lot of good, and my mother even rode in one once,” he said.
McCaw said the service has been operating in Lloydminster for more than 37 years, transporting community members with mobility challenges.
“Our riders are all ages from school kids up to seniors, and we work with many local organizations in the community,” he said.
“We provide this service seven days a week, and in 2017, we will do more than 12,000 trips with the three units we have operating full time and during the school year.”
McCaw said they will be using the unit for daily business, but it will open up opportunities to assist community members by taking seniors or interest groups on outings.
“We also have the opportunity to create new revenue by using it for corporate events and individual community functions,” he said.
Border City Express also operates three Care-A-Vans that shuttle residents to and from non-emergency medical appointments in larger centres such as Edmonton or Saskatoon.
The Care-A-Van shuttle provided over 300 out of town trips in 2016 during its first year of operation.
Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers, who said he wouldn’t jump into the tank unless at least $10,000 was raised, started to say a few words about the donation from the Norths with the fundraising at $8,500, and climbing fast on his dare.
“I can’t say thank you enough on behalf of the community and Fred and Lily, and the foundation that supports our community,” said Aalbers, with his turn in the tank even closer.
“We are still raising money to keep this machine on the road—Fred and Lily have donated it, but there still needs to be fuel and expenses.”
When Border City Connects’ Glenn Fagnan, who organized the event, told Aalbers he was going in the tank with more than 10 grand in the kitty, the mayor said with a grimace, “Thanks everybody for your donations, I will try and make a splash.”
Aalbers jumped into the tank wearing a suit and a Canada Day tie, one of several high profile jumpers who also helped to focus awareness on the rebranding via the Border City Express.
Fagnan said the rebranding followed comments from some users and potential riders who didn’t want to access any of the vehicles as long as they included the handivan name.
“We spoke with folks with Midwest Connections as well as Inclusion Lloydminster and Inclusion Alberta and they came up with some suggestions of what not to say (call it),” said Fagnan.
“There’s a friend of mine whose husband is a quadriplegic and that’s what she said—he would never ride the handivan because it’s called the handivan.”
Fagnan said when people are saying that to you, they are the people that would be riding in it.
“That’s been a change that’s been going around; it’s nobody in particular; it’s something as a board we felt would be better and more comfortable for our riders,” he explained.
The Border City name can also be added to any service Border City Connects could operate under the new brand with the same new logo and font type for lettering.
“We are planning on doing things—we could be Border City transit if there was an inkling to work with the city and go toward some type of transit system,” he said as one of many possibilities
“The rebranding also gets rid of the ‘handi,’ which makes some people cringe and we had people that would not ride that unit because it’s called the handivan.”